Saturday, January 19, 2008

on labels and enduring adoration of place

Of late, I've been worrying at one of those intriguing little mind conundrums that sometimes latch on to the monkey side of our thoughts (monkey-mind). My question: Am I really the "red rock writer" I claim to be if I am not currently living among the red rocks? Am I a poseur, a trickster taking on a role I can no longer rightfully claim as my own? What sort of writer am I, if I currently live among the hugely snowy, avalanche-prone peaks of southwestern Colorado instead? Am I a "snowy peaks writer" in actuality?

Who and what the hell am I, anyway?

(Yes, this is the monkey-mind at work. So much fun, it has! [I was channeling Yoda just now, in that phrasing.])

I've been missing my red rock land in recent days and weeks. When I glance at my as-yet-unframed poster of Capitol Reef National Park, cliffs glowing russet and amber and cream and rich burgundy, sharp cerise and softer chestnut and a ruddy terra cotta as well as a seemingly endless host of other color gradations and hints, I do sometimes receive the prick of tears as I gaze at that much-beloved view, as I touch upon the memory-scent of sage and dry sand and fresh clean air that is only barely, one hopes, being fogged over by the pollutants we simply must release into our own beautiful air. I feel stirred by that damned landscape, that windy and remote lover of mine, the place that teases and torments and cradles and laughs with my exuberance. And I sigh, and I try to remember to live where I am now, to embrace this moment of my being.

Anyway. An oddly nostalgic morning for me; unexpected. Perhaps triggered in part by a conversation last night with an acquaintance who also hailed from that area, who also now lives among the snowy peaks here, far removed from that desert land we claimed as our own, perhaps only rarely realizing that it held us much more than we contained it.

It is indeed so possible to fall in love with place. Another acquaintance once asked me, years back, if I thought that was possible to stay in a place for the place itself, to love it so much that it became the major reason for calling one's home, home. She sounded hesitant, as if worried that such an admission was weak or nonsensical or foolish. (She is in the science field, so such questioning is to be expected from those trained to believe whole-heartedly in the mind and the physical senses!) I did not hesitate at all in the my answer that, YES, of course it is possible to exist in a place for that place.

Maybe the question is, why would we live where we do not desire to be? Sure, there are many practical reasons to do so--I'm doing that myself right now, in a sense, much as Durango has grown on me and I love it for what it is, what it offers, what it can help me create. I enjoy it here tremendously, it provides me much that I could not get back in the red rock country. Yet overwhelming love of place? Sheer desire to stay here for the land itself? That has not gripped me yet, and I somewhat doubt there is room in my already full heart to love another place so deeply as I love southern Utah.

So to answer my own question--am I a poseur of sorts--I'd like to think not. I'd like to think that the label of red rock writer is the one closest to my heart and soul. Maybe we carry the land within us, no matter where we are?

Enough philosophizing. My Saturday lies before me, rich with potential for new discoveries and moments of being in this present, right now, and existing with simplicity and groundedness. As long as I am aware of my monkey-mind, that is!


Ken Wright said...

Yes! You can love a place so much as to live there for the place itself, regardless of the cost (I suppose within tolerance levels). That is certainly why I and so many of us suffer through the expense and work-craziness of Durango, and other remote mountain and desert haunts.

Durango's no cop out for your love for the redrock country. You also don't have to live the place you love most, feel most akin to. It still is sacred, and, as a writer, you can still articulate that perspective. Pilgrammage is a valid and meaningful way of loving as well. (That's why federal lands are not put in the hands of just locals.)

And Durango is not a bad place to pilgrammage from, eh?

Enjoyed stumbling on your blog, wandering across the cyberdesert. I write a Four Corners blog, too, at Rock on!

Julie K. Trevelyan said...

Thanks, Ken. I've certainly seen that commitment to place here in Derange-o (as one friend calls it, mostly when she faces the reality of how much it costs to live here vs. how much she earns!).

Durango is indeed an excellent place from which to pilgimmage (physically, emotionally, writing-wise, etc.), and it really has caught me in many ways. I am currently in the process of committing to it myself, although I admit without reservation that I still regard southern Utah as being the home of my heart & soul.

But as you say, it's not too bad in this little corner of La Plata county. Especially right now, as I watch the softly-falling snow and think with glee, Skiing!